Saturday, December 21, 2013

The Pleasures of Reading, Viewing, and Listening in 2013, pt. 18: Lesley Hall

The Pleasures of 2013
by Lesley Hall

This has been a somewhat harried year for me; however, there have been assorted pleasures along the way.

There were some delightful travels: a long weekend in Glasgow, where I was very taken with the works of the Glasgow School in various museums and galleries, not to mention the Willow Tea Rooms, which provided not only a chance to take the weight of my feet, but surviving witness to the interest of the 'Glasgow Boys' and 'Glasgow Girls' in applied arts. A few days in Dresden

followed by a few more in Prague - so many lovely buildings and architectural features:
And a few days in Utrecht, which enabled a pilgrimage to the amazing Kroller-Muller Museum way out in the country, which has a spectacular art collection, and a sculpture garden including a pavilion with several Barbara Hepworth sculptures:

In more sedentary pleasures, as I am one of the judges for the Arthur C Clarke Award this year, I have been reading quite a lot of sff, much of it out of my usual line, but feel that I should not discuss any of it before the announcement of the shortlist next spring, even though there have been some pleasant surprises.

I think, however, that I remain at liberty to declare my delight in the latest Ankaret Wells Requite-set novel, Heavy Ice. This was a wonderfully fun read with great world-building and thought-provoking cultures and relationships, in an utterly beguiling narrative voice. I was also chuffed that the second volume in Roz Kaveney's Rhapsody of Blood sequence, Reflections, appeared this autumn, and thoroughly lived up to the promise of the first, Rituals, even if it did end on a cliffhanger that left me gasping for the next instalment. Sherwood Smith is always a very readable author, but I found her Banner of the Damned took her work to a whole new level of complexity and depth.

In non-fictional reading, Carol Dyhouse's Girl Trouble: Panic and Progress in the History of Young Women not only does a thorough job of work in delineating that phenomenon I've noticed myself as a historian of twentieth-century gender and sexuality: the way that girls/young women become something between canaries in the coalmine of modernity and Rorschach blots for societal anxieties about modern life and social change - but describes it in a beautifully fluent and engaging style. Similarly extremely readable as well as an important contribution to the historiography of the 1920s, Lucy Bland's Modern Women on Trial: Sexual Transgression in the Age of the Flapper provides new insights into some of the causes célèbres of the years just after the Great War.

Lesley A. Hall is a London-based archivist and historian, and author of several books on the history of gender and sexuality. She has also published the Aqueduct Press Conversation Piece, Naomi Mitchison: A Profile of her life and work (2007). Her biography of a pioneering British feminist sex radical and campaigner for reproductive freedom, The Life and Times of Stella Browne, feminist and free spirit, was published by IB Tauris in 2011, and the expanded and updated second edition of her textbook, Sex, Gender and Social Change in Britain since 1880 was published last year. Lesley's website can be found at

No comments: